With all due respect to military veterans, I wonder if we need a “veterans of church warfare” day. We could start issuing medals for those who have survived a church split, firing a pastor/being fired as a pastor or becoming the target of the least mature. Sometimes you can simply celebrate survival.
The thing is, when you go to war you expect conflict. No so much at church.
Perhaps we should change our attitude – and instead of being surprised when people act out, we can anticipate that it is inevitable. A certain amount of mixing it up goes with the territory of leadership, even at church.
It might be even more useful to think of ourselves as historians and strategists rather than foot soldiers. Here are a few questions to ask:
What are the wider forces at work on the field of “battle?” What battles have been fought in the past over the same territory? Where do I need to take a stand and where should I cede ground?
And some questions about our own responses:
How can I become less vulnerable to the attacks of others? What allies do I need to keep myself emotionally and spiritually strong? How can I recover more quickly when someone comes after me?
And the big questions that are always worth asking in peaceful times and not-so-peaceful:
Rev. Margaret Marcuson works with churches that want to create a ministry that lasts and clergy who want more impact on the people they serve best. She is the author of Leaders Who Last: Sustaining Yourself and Your Ministry (Seabury, 2009). She served as pastor of the First Baptist Church of Gardner, Massachusetts for thirteen years.
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